Have Tent, Will Travel
Creating the ultimate camping list will be Magriet Kruger’s next challenge.
As a way of going on holiday, camping has always been championed by school-leavers and students. They instantly recognise what so many of us come to value over time: camping offers independence, freedom and, most importantly, affordability.
So when I desperately needed a bush escape and there was too long to go till payday, I knew the time had come for a camping trip. With a borrowed tent, sleeping bags and a couple of extra blankets, my travelling partner and I set off for Karoo National Park on a chilly June morning.
When it came to campsite comforts, we were definitely travelling light. No inflatable mattresses, no camping chairs with built-in drinks holders, no fold-out table or pop-up cupboard. We were sticking to the bare essentials so we could head out at a moment’s notice. If you think bare-bones camping in winter doesn’t sound like the best idea, you’d be right.
We soon learnt that a ground sheet is a necessity, not a nice-to-have. And that a two-person tent fits two people and absolutely nothing else. But we also learnt that campers rise naturally, with the birds and the sun, so for once we were ready to go on our game drive as soon as the gates opened.
When we weren’t game viewing, we were relaxing around the campsite and it wasn’t long before all sorts of visitors came calling: African red-eyed bulbul, Cape robin-chat and red-headed finch. Accustomed to people, the birds came much closer than normal. We got some of our best pictures right there, another hit for camping.
What’s more, these days campsites in national parks and nature reserves are amazingly well equipped. The spotless ablution block had hot showers, while a boiler provided boiling water on demand, a blessing for anyone who can’t function before the first cup of the day.
One of the things that people love about camping is that it brings you closer to nature. Well, in the Karoo that meant freezing fingers in the morning as we unzipped a tent covered in frost. But even though my nose was red with cold, I wouldn’t have swapped our little tent for a comfy rondavel, because the night before as I lay in my sleeping bag I could hear a genet snuffling around outside.
I think my travelling partner nailed it when he said that camping is invigorating. After a night of cooking out in the open and waking at first light, you feel more energetic, ready for the day ahead. I now know that all I need for my next trip is a tent and a sense of adventure.
Must-haves for budget camping
1) A head-torch, which eliminates the need for multiple lights and torches.
2) A multi-tool for opening tins and bottles, fixing things and more.
3) Nesting pot and pan set.
4) Comfy pillows from home.
5) Your favourite tipple.
This article was first published in the spring issue of Wild 2012.